The Toy Theater-Discuss-Puppetmaster Identity

I haven't seen this theory put forth before, and it seems like a good one. It fits the themes of love and betrayal at the end. In new commentary in The Best of Gene Wolfe, the author says that he was inspired by G K Chesterton's description of his own toy theater in his autobiography, and also by 'certain sad toys possessed by adult men.' I think we can take it as a given that these puppets can be used for such purposes, and that Stromboli is admitting that about Lili (and probably Charity too). If his wife is the other puppet-master, he is admitting it to her. The fact that he asks the narrator puppet to keep it 'under the rose' (sub rosa, secret) is possibly significant clue. Wolfe's wife is named Rose (Rosemary). Roses are mentioned at another point in the story as well.

It may shed some light on the cryptic parting words of the Butler Zanni: "The master expresses the hope that you know with whom you are keeping faith. He further expresses the hope that he himself does not know." If this is in fact Stromboli speaking to his wife, he may be telling her, "I hope you haven't been faithful to me all this time, because I haven't been faithful to you." The thoughts of the narrator about the cracked face of Lili versus the blooming cheeks of the younger puppet may be an expression of Mrs. Stromboli's sadness at being thrown over for a younger model (Lili when she was a "younger" puppet). Your idea of an elaborate "goodbye" ceremony, breaking up the marriage with puppets as proxies, makes sense. The two puppeteers are communicating to each other while each pretends the other isn't there -- rather poignant, even though Stromboli deserves to be left.

After careful re-reading and looking as some other commentary, I have a few problems with this theory. I have outlined an alternative in TheToyTheater.OtherPuppetsAndPuppetmasters. -- DaveTallman 20090901